Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mixology Monday XLII: A Dairy Drink That Will Surely Make You Dizzy with Delight

The Maltese is a creamy, bittersweet delight.

Egg whites bestow cocktails with a silky smooth texture that makes for a magical mouthfeel. Cream adds a richness that instantly puts cocktails in the category of “dessert” or “breakfast.” (How many of us have enjoyed a Ramos Gin Fizz in the AM hours, before putting food into our gullets?) And speaking of gullets, this month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by Chris Amirault at eGullet Forums. Chris has asked us to use dairy products in our cocktail, and we have decided to put forward one that uses two just like our friend Ramos: heavy cream and egg whites.

We came up with the idea for our cocktail this summer when we were working with Piedmont Distillers for a special Spirited Lunch at Bourbon House during Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. The dessert in question: molasses and cornmeal custard with creole cream cheese ice cream. Instead of finding something complementary to pair with the cornmeal custard (which has the breadlike consistency of an Indian pudding), we decided to go all-out dairy and try to match the flavors in the dish with the flavors in the drink.

Since we were making the cocktail for a Southern dish, why not use Southern ingredients. So we brewed up a pot of chicory coffee (perfect for morning or postprandial sipping), and reached for the bottle of Grandma’s Molasses. Catdaddy, the flavored moonshine we used in our cocktails for the lunch, has just the right sweetness to marry the bitterness of the coffee and molasses, and by adding cream and egg white, the frothiness you get from shaking the hell out of the mixture makes for a pretty, layered concoction. We couldn’t just stop there though and had to add some orange-scented chocolate shavings just to give it another dimension.

The Maltese
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine (now Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine)
3 ounces chilled strong coffee (try one with chicory)
1 ounces heavy cream
1 tablespoon molasses
1 egg white
orange & spice-flavored chocolate shavings, as garnish (we use Green & Black’s Organic Maya Gold, but you can improvise)

In a shaker, add all the ingredients except garnish and shake vigorously for about a minute until the mixture gets slightly frothy. Then fill with ice and shake again vigorously for another minute. Strain into glasses. Grate chocolate over each to taste.

Serves 2.

Photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cocktail Buzz Creates a Hot New Fall Cocktail for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol NYC Launch Party

Last night marked the book launch of Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol, at New York City’s Gotham Hall, and we were asked by the nice people of Doubleday Books to come up with a signature cocktail to kick off the event. If you ever get the opportunity to attend an event at Gotham Hall, you will be happy you walked through its doors. What a glorious space, with high glass-tiled ceiling, and gorgeous Egyptian-style detail in the bars that once haunted this old, restored bank. And for the event, the book jacket’s symbols were projected in bright red all over the upper walls, providing a warm, passionate glow. It was if the book jacket had come to life.

The publicity people at Doubleday wanted a simple yet delicious (but, of course) martini-style cocktail that reflected the book’s red jacket. We started playing with some pomegranate juice, which mixes nicely with many spirits and makes any drink glow a deep rich red (see photo and recipe below). The St-Germain adds a delightful herbal touch. We ended up making three drinks we just loved, and the folks at Doubleday chose one.

Truth be told, we were given no information about The Lost Symbol. Everything about it has been shrouded in mystery, yet due to the success and popularity of his earlier books, this new one quickly rose to number one on Amazon in pre-sales. The only things we were told were the title and that it featured Robert Langdon, who was played by Tom Hanks in the film version of The Da Vinci Code. After doing a little Google sleuthing of our own, we discovered that the Freemasons and George Washington’s putative treasonous acts were perhaps the focus of this The Lost Symbol. (Our sleuthing paid off—there were cherry trees everywhere, a nod to the myth that Washington chopped down one of those suckers for reasons we really cannot recall; and the men and women behind the stick, as well as the cater-waiters, sported white perukes, providing a whiff of the eighteenth century.)

We’re delighted with the results. The Langdon’s Folly reminds us of white grapes bursting with juicy tangy sweetness. They are easy to make, light in alcohol, and perfect for your next fall cocktail party (or after your book club has finished discussing one of The Lost Symbol’s chapters). Drinking two would not be considered indecent.

Langdon's Folly
(created by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces pomegranate juice
1 ounce vodka
1/4 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. You can add an orange twist to this drink. Do not twist above cocktail—simply toss into the drink. A small peel (using a vegetable peeler and about 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inches without the pith) would float nicely.

photos © 2009 Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Char No. 4 in Brooklyn Is an American Whiskey Lover’s Paradise

Last night for our eighth anniversary we decided to give Char No. 4 a try. Several of our friends have praised its seasonal cuisine, as well as the modest yet modern interior, all autumnal browns and bieges lit by mid-century-ish sconces and pendant lights. But what impressed us the most was the whiskey list. Broken down into fourteen categories such as wheated bourbon and single malt scotch, and featuring a wide variety of American whiskey such as bourbon and rye, this carte can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. But don’t despair; just ask your the friendly wait and bar staff for some help, and they will steer you in the right direction.

To start our evening, we sipped on some Rittenhouse 23-year rye. Expensive, yes (it’s $15 per ounce), but it was worth every sip. We always say that the details matter, and when the drinks were served in large, stemless glasses with a side of crystal-clear ice cubes, we smiled because we knew we’d be able to try the rye three ways: neat, with a drop of water to open it up, and one single small cube swirled around, to round out the edges. All three ways proved intoxicatingly delightful, and if it weren’t for the price tag, we’d have a bottle on our home shelves all the time. Just the nose, with traces of rich caramel and dark brown sugar, were enough to send us into paroxysms of blissful sighs.

Now it was time to counteract the effects of the rye with some grub, and the menu at Char No. 4 seemed to have plenty to tempt our taste buds. What to start with, and what cocktail to accompany our meal? Too much appealed—we had to narrow our focus. We knew we wanted to try the house-cured lamb pastrami (the thinnest, most tender slices) with coriander aioli and rye-caraway toast, and also the crispy cheddar curds with spicy pimento sauce (what meal is complete without cheese!), so we opted for an old favorite, the Sazerac.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces rye
1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it)
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
splash of Herbsaint, to rinse the glass
lemon twist, or peel

Pour Herbsaint into a glass, swish it around, then empty the glass. In a shaker filled with ice, add the rye, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake for 15 seconds and strain into the Herbsaint-rinsed glass. Squeeze the lemon twist over the drink and add to the glass. Add ice, if desired.

Ah, the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans. For the uninitiated, a contemporary Sazerac is made by swishing some Herbsaint (absinthe’s less potent cousin) in a glass, then dumping it out before adding chilled rye laced with a few dashes of Peychaud’s red and spiky bitters, a bit of simple syrup, and a lemon twist. During the early years of our togetherness, this was the first cocktail that we searched high and low for the ingredients. Our zeal could not be contained. Like Indiana Jones’s search for the Holy Grail, we were on a quest to make this age-old quaff, so, when it came time to choose the rye, we opted for, what else, Sazerac rye. Slightly grassy in aroma and taste, Sazerac is dry more than sweet and is a pleasant foil to the sweetness of the simple syrup.

But, alas, Char No. 4 was out of Sazerac rye. Oh well, Rittenhouse 100 proof would have to do. When the waiter returned with our drinks, we both took a sip and smiled. The bartender managed to create a dryish cocktail that had a nice lemony tang and very little sugar (perhaps a little lemon juice was added, no worries). But what made us smile even more was the way the cocktail worked with the cheese curds and the lamb. Perfection. So, after baaing contentedly for a few mouthfuls, we decided to keep the food coming.

Should we go healthy and eschew the red meat–heavy dishes, or jump right in and get all buttery and fatty. Well, compromise is the key to any meal (and relationship, for that matter), so we ordered baby green salad with pecan and marjoram dressing (very healthy), some beet and blue cheese salad (healthy), and shrimp & grits (umm, well, this is where compromise comes into play). Let us proclaim that these grits were the best we ever had the pleasure of devouring (or second-best, if you count the cheese grits we had this summer at Madewood Plantation in Napoleonville, Louisiana). Thank God we had a few sips of the Sazerac left because it made all the healthy food taste even better, and the shrimp & grits sublimier.

Normally we don’t have dessert, but what the hell, it was our eighth anniversary. Traditionally, one gives one’s partner a gift of bronze for the eighth anniversary. The homemade butter pecan ice cream (chunks of sweet and salty praline) with bourbon sauce was bronze-colored, so close enough. Let’s just say that the the dessert lasted about as long as the Harrison presidency. Scoop, slurp, aaaah.

Will we return to Char No. 4? You bet. With over a hundred brown spirits on the menu, we have no choice but to become whiskey ethnographers, charting our bibulous journey through the rural reaches of Appalachia, all the way around the globe through the far-off mysteries of the Orient (there are eleven Japanese whiskeys for sampling), and back again.

P.S. We celebrate our anniversary on both September 8 and 9. But we were too pooped to celebrate on the 8th, so we opted to stay in and make an anniversary cocktail. Since our favorite go-to cocktail is the Manhattan, and much Maker’s Mark bourbon was drunk when we first met, we decided to make a Manhattan using Makers’s, Carpano Antica (our new favorite vermouth), and some Angostura bitters. The Manhattan never fails to bring a rush of color to our faces. Have one tonight with the one you love.

Anniversary Manhattan
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
1 ounce Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir in a mixing glass for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.